Giving Feedback to Your Personal Assistant: Radical Candor


A personal assistant can take your life from unorganized and overwhelming to structured and manageable. However, this change won’t happen overnight: You’ll first have to invest in communication to show your personal assistant how they can best help you. 

In the beginning, this may mean spending 80% of your time communicating in order to get 20% of your time back. The more you communicate, the sooner you’ll be spending just 20% of your time communicating to get 80% of your time back. 

The investment is well worth the initial time commitment: Open communication helps build an environment of trust, one in which your personal assistant can feel confident enough to take ownership of your household tasks, and you can feel confident in their ability to do so. You’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that your to-dos are getting done without having to oversee them.

[Related: How to Be Successful With Your Personal Assistant]

But as straightforward and beneficial as this environment of open communication may sound, many people still fail to provide the feedback that’s necessary to achieve it.

To promote successful relationships between our clients and personal assistants, Pepper’s Personal Assistants recommends the approach of Radical Candor™.

Radical Candor™

Radical Candor™ is a new management philosophy that involves caring personally while challenging directly and providing guidance that is kind, clear, specific, and sincere.

This approach can be challenging for a couple reasons. First, we often assume that feelings have no place in a professional environment. But building a strong relationship with someone requires caring personally about them. Both of you should feel safe and comfortable enough to show vulnerability, such as admitting when you’re having a bad day.

[Related: Why There Is No Shame in Asking for Help]

And second, the saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” has probably been ingrained in your mind since you were old enough to talk. But successful client-personal assistant relationships require providing feedback, and providing feedback requires challenging directly. Rather than coming across as a criticism, challenging directly shows your personal assistant that you care about them and their success in their role.

Remember that your personal assistant wants to make your life easier, so if they aren’t, they want to know. Realizing that the feedback you give your personal assistant allows them to improve their work — and thus gain more satisfaction from it — allows you to reframe your feedback as a gift.

[Related: How to Be the Best Personal Assistant]

How to Embrace Radical Candor™

What does Radical Candor™ look like? If you want your personal assistant to complete a task differently or in a specific way, let them know right away. At the same time, your personal assistant should be open with you if they are uncomfortable performing a certain task or uncertain about how something should be done.

Image via Radical Candor™


Radical Candor™ may be hard to put into practice at first, but understanding what is not Radical Candor™ helps:

  • Obnoxious Aggression™: When you challenge someone directly without showing that you care about them personally, you exhibit Obnoxious Aggression™. Often referred to as front stabbing or brutal honesty, Obnoxious Aggression™ may be a valid criticism but isn’t delivered kindly.
  • Ruinous Empathy™: When you care personally but don’t challenge directly because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, you exhibit Ruinous Empathy™. You may feel like you’re being nice, but your lack of specific feedback isn’t helpful in the long term.
  • Manipulative Insincerity™: When you neither challenge directly nor care personally, you exhibit Manipulative Insincerity™. Manipulative Insincerity™ is often called passive-aggressive behavior or backstabbing, and could manifest in the form of insincere praise or flattering someone to their face but criticising them behind their back. 

Let this framework guide you as you interact with your personal assistant, but remember that everyone exhibits the above behaviors at one time or another. They aren’t personality types — just a compass to help guide you toward Radical Candor™.

Final Tips and Takeaways

To embrace Radical Candor™, we encourage our clients to offer their personal assistants feedback on a regular basis by scheduling a standing weekly meeting, either in person or via phone. Clients should also send notes in Slack as soon as an issue arises. Think of feedback as a tool that will help grow your relationship with your personal assistant and build trust.

Of course, we always appreciate positive feedback as well! Letting your personal assistant know what they’re doing well enables them to continue doing it that way in the future.

For more help embracing Radical Candor™ with your personal assistant, contact us. We are dedicated to cultivating client-personal assistant relationships that are both positive and productive. 


Featured image via Pixabay

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